Summary: Encouraging believers to stay the course and finish the task.
Whenever the people of God start doing the work of God, there is opposition. A worker of weak faith and purpose will quit, but a person of resolution and confidence will overcome the opposition and finish the task. Nehemiah was such a person. Notice in these chapters the opposition that he faced (from both within and without the city) and the victories that he won.
I. Ridicule (4: 1-6)
God's people always have enemies. In this case, they were Sanbal¬lat, a government official in Samaria; Tobiah, the Ammonite; and Geshem, an Arabian.
These three wicked men were outside the nation of Israel; in fact, the Ammonites were definite enemies of the Jews (Deut. 23:3-4).
Their first weapon was ridicule; they mocked the "feeble Jews" openly before the leaders of Samaria. Satan is a mocker (Luke 22:63; 23:35-37). Ridicule is a device used by ignorant people who are filled with jealousy.
How did Nehemiah answer them? He prayed to his God! His concern was only for the glory of God and the testimony of the nation
Satan would have loved to see Nehe¬miah leave the wall and get involved in a dispute with Sanballat, but Nehemiah did not fall into Satan's trap. Never allow ridicule to stop your ministry.
II. Force (4:7-9)
What Satan cannot accomplish by deceit he attempts to do by force.
It is amazing how the devil seems to have no manpower shortage. We have two enemies in 2: 10, three in 2:19, and a whole multitude in 4:7.
But "if God be for us, who can be against us?" How did Nehemiah face this new attack? He prayed and set a watch. "Watch and pray!" is a repeated admoni¬tion in the NT. Note that Nehemiah did not depend on prayer alone; he also set a watch.
III. Discouragement (4: 10)
The battle moves now from outside the city to inside. Satan fol¬lowed this same tactic in Acts 5-6 when he used Ananias and Sapphira and the complaining widows inside the fellowship of the church.
He also used Judas inside the ranks of the apostles.
How discouraged the workers were, with all that rubbish on the inside of the city and the danger lurking on the outside.
Why did Judah complain?
Perhaps it was because they were secretly in league with Sanballat (6:17).
Discouragement and complaining spread rapidly and hinder God's work. We do not read that Nehemiah paid much attention to their complaint; he kept on building, watching, and praying.
IV. Fear (4:11-23)
Fear and faith can never abide in the same heart. In v. 11, we have a rumor the enemy started that their armies would suddenly invade Jerusalem.
The Jews living outside the city heard this report and carried it to Nehemiah ten times. How persistent Satan's workers can be. Finally, Nehemiah set the guard on the walls and encour¬aged the people not to fear.
Note that the work stopped from v. 13 to v. I5-exactly what the enemy wanted. Nehemiah saw the folly of this plan, so he put the workers back on the job, a weapon in one hand and a tool in the other.
He also set a special watch with trumpets (vv. 19-20), but he did not allow the work to stop. These Jews are wonderful examples of what a Christian worker ought to be: they had a mind to work (4:6), a heart to pray (4:9), an eye to watch (4:9), and an ear to hear (4:20).
V. Selfishness (5)
This is a sad chapter, for in it we see the Jews selfishly preying upon one another. No building is recorded in this chapter. There were great economic burdens upon the Jews, not only because of the famine (Hag. 1: 7 -11), but also because of the taxes and trib¬utes.
The Jews were being robbed by their own people through mortgages and servitude.
How did Nehemiah act in this crisis?
First, he was angry (v. 6) because his people were so spiritually backslidden as to rob one another. He saw it not as an economic problem, but as a spiritual problem. He consulted with his own heart (v. 7) and certainly prayed to God for wisdom.
Then he rebuked the people (vv. 7-11), reminding them of God's goodness to their nation. "We have been set free by the Lord," he argued; "will you now put one another in bondage again?"
Note that Nehemiah also appealed to his own good example as a leader (v. 10). The people vowed to obey the Word-and they did!
VI. Guile (6:1-4)
The people went back to work, and so did the enemy. This time Sanballat and his men aimed their attacks on Nehemiah the leader.
Many of God's people will never realize here on earth the special temptations and testings God's servants face day after day. Spiritu¬al leadership is a costly thing.